Controlling that A-hole inside of my head

We often hear about people who are “unemployed” but we never believe it will happen to us until it does. I have been faced with that dilemma twice in the past five years and I can tell you it is not a fun experience. You begin to question your self-worth and it truly is a shot to your ego. The truth is that you start to look back on all the things you could have done different to have avoided the situation. Could I have worked more hours? Could I have gone to that optional after hours work function instead of my son’s hockey game? These are just some of the questions many people who found themselves axed as part of a corporate downsizing beyond their control begin to ask. Most of these questions probably relate to a discussion of work-life balance or as I like to say work over life. The truth is that when it comes down to it I believe in the old saying that any (sane) person who is on their deathbed ever says “I wish I had spent more time at the office”.

I am currently “out of work” and as much as you try and stay positive and busy and productive and… the demons of self-doubt seem to always creep in and invade your brain. However, as Dan Harris so eloquently put it in his book “10 % Happier”, the voice in my head is an “asshole”. That voice is usually tied to self-doubt and reflecting upon things that have not happened or you have no control over (or as I put it to my son when he shows angst over something, the “what ifs?” in life).

The “what ifs?” can paralyze you if you let them – especially when life deals you a tough hand like the death of a family member, the break-up of a marriage or the loss of a job. I have experienced all of the aforementioned (This does not make me special in any way).   I can tell you that I often have heard from well-meaning family and friends that “it could be worse”. This centres around the concept that I should be thankful that I am not living in a war-torn country or maybe grieving the loss of my family in a house fire. That to me is taking someone else’s pain and suffering and using it to make me feel better about my own (not unique) situation. This strikes me as just a little perverse (but to each their own I guess).

No, for me, the best way to make you feel better about your situation is to shut that a-hole up in your head. He/she is only going to bring you down by making you look at the “possible” bad outcomes (just an observation but have you ever noticed the voice seems to be louder at challenging times?). Shutting down that voice is the key to making it through tough times.

Even further, for most of us, turning off Mr. Negative may also be the answer to not letting everyday annoyances get the better of some of us. Come on, admit it, many of you have given into that voice at times when the situation is at best a one or two on a scale of ten on the annoyance meter. Maybe it is when you were in the line at the grocery store behind that person who just can’t seem to find their credit card or cash. Or maybe on the highway when that inconsiderate twit who is talking on their cell phone cuts you off. The voice sometimes just gets the best of us and you shoot the person the finger or shake a fist in their direction. What does this accomplish? Nothing (other than satisfying that asshole in your heads’ need to be heard).

The next time the voice chimes in on issues be they big or small just repeat after me “shut up asshole – I am better than you”.

 

mongers

 

 

“The twitch” – an update

Well it has been approximately three days since I made the commitment to stop being a slave to the time-sucking device known as a smartphone. I was true to my promise and the only two times I picked up my phone other than to answer a call was to confirm a practice time for my son’s hockey and to check skate times with one of his trainers. No updating Facebook. No answering texts. No surfing aimlessly for the latest on the election in the USA.

Since Friday I have noticed the following:

  1. The world does not stop spinning when I do not reach for my phone involuntarily at frequent intervals during the day.
  2. I actually get way more accomplished due to the extra time I have thanks to the change in my habits related to smartphone use.
  3. I am way more present and aware of my surroundings. I found just sitting and watching is far more satisfying than having my face buried in my phone. I actually watched almost all of my son’s practices and enjoyed doing so.
  4. I don’t miss the interaction (funny how we use the word interaction to describe how we “interact” with an inanimate object. I remember a time when the word “interact” was used to refer to how we related with people and not things) with my phone. It no longer has this hold on me and I feel richer for this fact.
  5. I felt lighter mentally (no jokes please. I am still a mental heavyweight. At least that is what I keep telling myself) and I found myself cracking jokes far more.

If you want to read more on this “addiction” which is taking over many people’s lives check out this article Please. It’s Just a Phone.Read These Crazy Smartphone Addiction Stats. The image below illustrates just one of the stats from the article.

always on bofa poll

Three days down and another 57 to go.

OneDadWithaBlog

Getting rid of “The Twitch”

 

cell-phone-addiction
Nomophobia – is a proposed name for the phobia (intense, irrational fear) of being out of mobile phone contact

“The twitch” which Joshua Burns Millburn refers to in his book Everything That Remains is not any relation to “the itch” (they both cause anxiety I guess but the latter can be fixed with… well you know!). The twitch is a self-absorbing act that occurs for most of us probably dozens if not hundreds of times per day. What is this affliction which consumes our being and causes us to panic at times when you can’t satisfy that twitch?

 

It is an involuntary act caused by our smart phones. The phone itself maybe “smart”- with its latest technology and upgrades each time a newer version comes out on the market – but the phone itself renders the user “dumb” in most cases.

Why do I say that this supposed miracle of the modern world reduces us to drooling fools? Because just like Pavlov’s dog every time our phones beep, ring or produce the latest catchy hip-hop, country, rock, classical, etc. ringtone many of us begin to salivate. The only thing missing is the user sitting up on their hind legs to beg for a treat (note to Apple executives if you introduce this feature on I-Phone 69 I want a cut if I am still around!). Think about it. When you reached for your phone recently and it was not there what was your reaction? I am guessing the emotional range for most runs the spectrum from mild concern to sheer unfettered panic.

 

College-students-face-cellphone-addiction.jpg.png
The average college student spends nine hours a day using their cell phone

 

I did a little experiment today where I counted the number of times I reached for my phone without even having a reason to do so. I stopped counting at five times in just over one hour. The key is I made a conscious decision to notice this behavior and stop it each time.

If I were to extrapolate the math I would be at almost 100 times when I involuntarily reached for this time-sucking device each and every day. Even if I took an average of one minute (I would argue a very conservative estimate) each time I picked up the device I would be wasting over 90 minutes each day or over 10 hours each week. So many of us complain that they never have enough hours in the day for the important things in life but we are sacrificing precious time worshipping at the altar of one form of technology or another. The smart phone may not even be the biggest technology offender in terms of a “time-waster” in the average person’s life.

slide_234037_1123114_free.jpg

This type of behavior leads us to be cut-off from the most important things in our life our surroundings, our experiences and our relationships. After all, the age-old saying does not go, “stop and small the micro-chips or the 32 gig processor”.

48baa62ba2d311a9f25841f9cdec80b1.jpg

With this in mind I am going to begin a 60-day challenge. This challenge will have very specific rules but the focus will be to stop treating my smart phone as an appendage (if I pictured it this way it would probably look like the Alien from the movie of the same name. A parasite which has attached to the host and refuses to let go. The difference is that Sigourney Weaver’s character Ridley will not be rushing in to save me. Too bad.) and use it more in the manner in which I believe it was intended – as a tool.

Here are the rules:

  1. It is a phone damn it – not a toy! – yes that is right. I will use my device only as a phone for 60 days. No more aimlessly surfing the web. No checking facebook conversations. No texting with whomever sends me a message because they may be bored. No nothing! Well except if it rings and then I will answer it. Old school baby!
  2. I will get to you when I get to you – I know in this world we believe everyone should respond with lightning fast immediacy. Well guess what? I lived before smart phones and I still had the time to catch up with people when I had the chance – usually after I was enjoying my surroundings, experiences and relationships. Maybe I will miss out on some stuff – maybe not. I will set aside time each evening to respond to all emails. If you text me… see rule #1.
  3. Rules are made to be broken – I will allow myself some latitude on the above rules under the following conditions:
    1. Family comes first – if my kids text me I will respond. Rules don’t always apply to family and given that I miss my kids every minute they are away from me I think this one is only fair. I will do my best to encourage them to call dad because after all there is nothing sweeter for a parent than the sound of your child’s voice. Words on a screen are a pale imitation.
    2. I think I went the wrong way – due to my terrible sense of direction I am going to allow myself the luxury of using my smart phone’s GPS but if it sends me into the lake like that lady in Tobermory I will start buying maps!
    3. Work phone for work only – I do travel occasionally and sometimes I am required to keep up with my emails so that is another exception I will allow myself.
    4. My blog my rules – I will also allow myself to post and update using my phone but not check my site statistics. That can wait until I get home and have access to a real computer not a 6 inch wannabe one.
    5. Listen to the music – I can use my device for listening to music when working out only.

OK, now that we have set the ground rules all I can say is let’s jump in the deep end of the pool! The water’s warm but remember no cell phones allowed. Some of us are trying to swim not just take a picture of the pool.

Wish me luck!

OneDadWithaBlog

Letting Go – Day 4 coming soon!

Just in case anyone out there thinks I have given up the ghost on my challenge – think again.  I have still been working through simplifying my life by getting rid of “stuff” that does not add value to my life. I will admit to dealing with multiple drama episodes in my life which has kept me from sitting down and hammering out any updates but I promise, one is coming soon. 

Since my last post, I have tackled my medicine cabinet which was a bit of a jungle. I am also going through my kitchen and downsizing.

In the meantime I am reading up on Project 333. I think I can do this and will go through the process in the next couple of weeks. If you want to know more about Project 333 and think you might have what it takes click on the link.

Also, I just received my reading material for the next month (see below). These guys are my inspiration!!

I will leave you with these words of wisdom – “don’t let your possessions possess you”.

OndDadWithaBlog

Letting Go – Day 3

The third day of my challenge to simplify my life by taking a minimalist approach to what I consume was a little less involved than Day 2. This doesn’t mean my day was any less involved. 

  1. 10 am – Pick the kids up at their mom’s place 
  2. 10:30 am – stop for breakfast when I am informed on the way home by Drake and Daniela that mom did not feed them
  3. 10:45 am. – deal with a difficult tenant when I arrive home (the less than landlord-friendly Ontario rental system will be a blog subject for another day), 
  4. 11 am – get ready for a long day ahead
  5. 11:20 am – leave for the rink to get Drake to an exhibition hockey game in Pickering
  6. 11:55 am – drive to local Dollar Store to pick up items for a work event later that day
  7. 12:10 pm – arrive back at the rink, get Daniela set up with popcorn and a mobile device to keep her occupied while Drake’s game is on
  8. 12:50 pm – join Drake’s team as I will be on the bench helping 
  9. 1 – 2:15 pm – help on the bench as Drake’s team gets a little lesson from a much better team
  10. 2:30 – 3:30 pm – drive from Pickering to Molson Canadian Amphitheatre for work event. The kids are in tow as Daniela is meeting a friend to attend the concert
  11. 3:30 – 5 pm – help set up our VIP area before doors open
  12. 5 – 9:30 pm – help host the VIP area for our event
  13. 9:30 – 10:15 pm – drive home with Drake
  14. 11 – 11:30 pm – pick up Daniela from friend’s place (they are exhausted but they had fun!)
  15. 11:30 pm – 12 am – get kids ready for bed

Part of the reason I posted this was because I bristle at the commonly held belief which permeates media, the public and indeed our government through our Family Court system that many dads are not often heavily involved in the lives of their children. We often hear about “Super moms” balancing life and work but when have you seen a nod in the media to the “Super dads”? If I sound as if I think that dads are marginalized by society in many ways while mothers take up the lion’s share of the oxygen when it comes to parenting. Bingo!!!

Given this schedule I leaned on Daniela to keep the ball rolling on my month long challenge of Letting Go. She did a fabulous job of cleaning out unwanted, unworn and/or too small clothing items all to be donated to charity. Photos of her basket of items plus one of some more finds in the back of my closet which will be finding a new home are below.

Bring on Day 4!!

OneDadWithaBlog

Letting Go – Day 2

It was a very productive day. Have you ever noticed when you get rolling you forget about the necessities of life – like eating? That is how my second day of “letting go” was like. By the time I realized I was hungry it was almost 4 pm! The souvlaki pita which was my first eats of the day could not have tasted better!

Day 2 of my challenge started with two hours of cleaning and purging. I felt like a minimalist bulemic as I went through items which had me saying on many occasions “I had no idea I still had that”.

After piling up my forgotten and neglected treasures (see some shots below of what was on the chopping block) it was off  to Once Upon a Child to drop off a rarely used doll house. The $30 I received seemed a little low but my haggling dna was on the backburner pushed aside by the purging mode of my new minimalist attidude. The dough came in handy to pay for the aforementioned pita.

Next up was a trip to Deja Vu Disc to sell off some dvds. No dice! Some little old lady had just dropped off eight (yes, eight!) garbage bags of dvds before me and the staff said they could not process anymore today. Crap!

After that minor setback I was off to Long & McQuade to sell a guitar which probably was used less by me than the just sold dollhouse had been used by my daughter in the past year. Pay dirt this time! I walked out with $105 in my pocket (well, actually deposited directly into my account via interac).

At this point I had worked myself from midtown to the east end of Scarborough in my three stops. However because of my “Heisman” (an inside joke with some old friends at Gord’s Place) at the dvd place I still had a box of unused old movies. Wait! Maybe there was another store outside of Toronto where I could unload these classics. A quick google search and a call to say I was coming with a box of hollywood treasures and I was on my way to Deja Vu Discs in Ajax. After the sales guy played his version of “got ’em – need ’em” with my dvds he cashed me out to the tune of $38.50. Wow! This minimalism thing was proving profitable!

OK, time to unload about 50 books and the rest of those dvds (after a quick stop for that chicken souvlaki pita of course!). Next stop – close to my hood – Queen Street East in The Beach for a visit to Re-Read, a used bookstore. After finding out that they have a “preferred list of authors” and will not buy books from authors not on the list I am not surprised. It is The Beach after all, an area of Toronto which not long ago debated whether it should be called “The Beach” or “The Beaches” (for the record I fell on the “who cares” side of the debate). The store will however take my books as a “donation”. Maybe some of the unwashed masses who follow sports will recognize authors like Mitch Albom, Ron Maclean or Don Cherry whose books are part of my “donation”. Maybe I will go back next week to see how much my “donated” books are fetching. 

But I digress.It is 5 pm and I still have some board games and those unwanted dvds to unload from my van. Last stop Value Village. No pretense. No “we don’t take those.” The employee at the back happily takes the last of my bounty and even helps me bring them in to the loading area 

Two hours of cleaning and purging at home followed by six stops over four hours to unburden myself of items some of which had been collecting dust for years and I am back home. Tired but satisfied that I achieved a small step in my challenge.

Now, I will say that I did not go all ninja minimalist and gas everything. I saved several books including two of my favourites, both for different reasons, below. 

On to Day 3!

Letting Go – Day 1

I have been inspired to take action and become more aware of what I consume in my daily life. When we talk about “consumption” as a society we often think of what we put in our body. After I discovered The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus – I now understand that consumption relates to everything we purchase. Consumerism in North America has spun out of control. At least in my corner of the world I am going to try and stop the cycle. 

With this goal in mind I am going to take a 30-day challenge which will be two-fold:

  1. Remove at least one item per day from my own personal stash (given that Millburn and Nicodemus say there is evidence to suggest that the average household contains over 300,000 items I think I can spare 30 items in a month, give or take)
  2. Don’t purchase ANYTHING new that does not add value to my life (this will probably be the more challenging part).

So my journey begins. Below is an image of three items I dug out of the back of my closet which will be off to find a new home via a clothing donation service. Watch each day as I continue to free myself of stuff. Wish me luck!

Family Court – Canada’s Dirty Little Secret

Full disclosure. I am involved in a sometimes bitter Family Court dispute which threatens mine and thus my children’s financial futures. During this process which began in 2012 (or 2013 depending on which party you believe) I have spent hours reading articles, blogs, judgements and studies from the bizarro world known as Family Court.

A big reason I have been absent from my blog is the mental and physical energy I have used to try and maintain a life for me and my children. My absence on One Dad With a Blog ends this weekend. In honour of Father’s Day and all the dads who are no longer with us because they saw no other alternative than taking their own lives I will be posting a comprehensive blog post on the family court system and why I call it “Canada’s Dirty Little Secret”.

As a precursor to the blog I have attached an article written by Donna Laframboise which opens the door just a crack to reveal the filthy underbelly of our family court system. For those of you who believe the popular narrative that the media sells that “deadbeat dads” are the issue I am not certain anything will convince you but if anything will the stories of the men in the link below may change your perceptions.

I am also certain my belief that the Family Court system regularly treats men and fathers as little more than wallets will offend the sensibilities of those who are with the political correct crowd (#believewomen?). Frankly, I don’t care. The evidence is there for all to see but nobody seems to care about men involved in an often unwinnable fight – whether it be for reduced support payments or access to their children.

Happy Father’s Day to all of these men – whether living or dead.

Deadbroke Dads

 

kramer_vs._kramer_3_hoffman

 

 

The politicization of our children

I’m baaaaaack!

After a short break I have a brand new topic. This comes after several instances of what I refer to as the politicization of our elementary classrooms. Teachers overtly and covertly are interjecting their own beliefs on “hot button” issues such as eating meat, the feminist agenda and why we should all bow at the political altar of the Liberal party. This is not going on just at the high school level (where it is still debatable how this often one-sided presentation of the “facts” can influence developing minds of 14-18 years of age) it is happening at ages as young as 7 or 8 (Grade 1 and 2). When did this change happen in our schools and why are parents sitting idly by and letting some politically motivated teachers indoctrinate our young children? The last straw for me was when my 11-year old son came home and said “my teacher says it is better to be a man than a woman because men get all the perks. Is that true dad?” After I picked my jaw off the floor and discussed the issue of gender equality with my son in a level and balanced way I realized I could grumble like most of us do or I could act. My action, a one-on-one meeting with administrators at the school. I will make the details of that meeting available here. Watch for my full blog post in the coming days.

OneDadWithaBlog

#BoysNeedaHugToo

Love the skin in which you live

While I could just bore you with a lot of statistics (and I will later in this post) to support my contention that boys should be part of the discussion on issues affecting our youth (and yes, adults) such as low self-esteem, poor body self-image and depression I will start with an anecdotal story.

My two children are both great kids and for the most part well-adjusted. My daughter Daniela exudes confidence and at this point I don’t see any issues with he self esteem. Yes, her teen years are ahead and that may change but for now there are no red flags, at least ones I have witnessed. My son Drake, who at 11 is two years older than his sister, is a different story at times. While he is happy much of the time he does have episodes which make me raise a parental eyebrow and wonder about what is going on inside his young brain.

Recently, Drake has taken to expressing that he is “fat”. Anyone who knows my son knows that this could not be further from the truth. Drake openly admits he is the lightest kid in his Grade 5 class. He is extremely active. Drake practices with his school track team twice a day and skates up to six times per week during the hockey season and once or twice a week in the off-season. He is a model of fitness as a pre-adolescent yet he suffers from a below average image of his own body.

This is becoming a more common belief among young boys. Just like young women are bombarded by images of the “perfect” female form boys are equally served a healthy dose of “ripped” men in movies, television and other forms of media. The difference in my opinion? The push-back on the portrayal of the Victoria Secret type model is clearly evident throughout the mainstream media. Campaigns such as Dove’s Self Esteem Project or the move this year by Sports Illustrated  to include plus size model Ashley Graham as one of the magazine’s cover models for the annual swimsuit issue are laudable indeed. The issue I have is not with this push to make young women more comfortable in their own skin but the lack of  any move to include boys/men in the discussion and to make them recognize that a healthy body doesn’t always come with a six-pack and 20-inch pythons. The discussion of body self-image, like many issues that seemingly effect both girls and boys more or less equally, seems to be gender-focused on young girls.

Caroline Knorr who is the Senior Parenting Editor for Common Sense Media recognized that boys were having issues with loving their bodies just as much as their female counterparts. Her recent article cited evidence that indicates that 30-35% of boys age 6 to 8 “indicate their ideal body is thinner than their current body”. Those numbers should set off alarm bells but that does not appear to be the case in society. (to read the article click on the following link Boys and body image ).

A cry for help?

Some people may not be buying into my belief that boys are just as much risk as young girls when it comes to some of the issues with which our youth seem to struggle. However, the proof is right there in black and white for all of us to see (I warned you, here comes the boring statistical part!). Statistics indicate that suicide is the third leading cause of death among males age 10 to 24 in our country. Further, in 2012 in Canada, 398 males in the same age groups listed above took their own lives versus 154 females. While the female rate of suicide among 15 to 19 year-olds has remained virtually flat between 2008 and 2012 (68 vs. 67) the rate among the same group of males has risen over 14% over the same period (140 vs. 160). This screams out loud and clear that there are many issues with our young boys. The question is, why does nobody seem to care?

The Lost Boys – a disenfranchised generation of young men

When looking deeper into this topic I believe that society can set its sites on many factors which are contributing to our  failing of our young boys but I will train my figurative howitzer directly on our school system.

Michael Thompson, who is a noted expert on the emotional well-being of boys and the author of the book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys has shed light on the issue which he believes is a crisis in the western world. Thompson speaks to how we (yes, we) are failing our young boys and he makes no issue with calling out our educators for being at the front of the line on the list of those leading the way in dropping the ball when it comes to raising our young men. I consider Raising Cain a must read for any parent raising a young boy. When I read this book a lot of memories/emotions regarding school began rushing back.

Again, like many other issues affecting young boys the crisis of how boys are not being engaged by our educators is very apparent. Think about the fact that post-secondary institutions in the United States are struggling to maintain a 60/40 female:male split. Look at the shocking statistics related to the male drop-out rate in our high schools (36 per cent of boys who start Grade 9 in New York City will not graduate high school). Focus on the statistics that indicate that in most western countries that 70 percent of the top students in our schools are girls and 70 per cent of the bottom students are boys and it becomes apparent that we have a crisis on our hands.

As many experts on the subject of boys well-being  believe, we can either ignore these obvious issues or choose to address them in a meaningful manner. If we choose the former, it will come with significant consequences for all of society in the very near future.

#BoysNeedaHugToo

OneDadWithaBlog